Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby essentials, first three months, Part 1

This is only Part 1 folks.... the main attractions, the ones that stand out most in my mind.

The Happiest Baby on the Block 

Buy this. Read this. BEFORE you go into labor! Even if you end up not using all his techniques it is very helpful to know his theory about the first three months of a baby's life being the "fourth trimester" because God help us all it is SO true. After three months it's like a light switch and these incomprehensible beings become human babies. 

Moby wrap

This baby carrier looks very complicated to put on... and the first few times you do it, it is. (DO practice and familiarize yourself with it when you're pregnant.) But after you get the hang of it, it is super easy and the best way on earth to calm a screaming newborn.  And then, once you've walked around with him in it and put him to sleep you can do some catching up on your email, or do an errand, or take him gently out, place him into a crib and you can get some sleep too!

For the first 3 months of Gage's life he always had an upset tummy so he spent an inordinate amount of his wakeful time screaming his head off. So I would head out with him in the stroller, he would fall asleep in the stroller, but the second he woke up he would start with the hysterical crying. I would put on the Moby, put him in it, and resume walking (with my diaper bag now in the stroller), and he would shut up! Needless to say, I never ever left the house without the Moby in those early months.

Baby Bjorn Babysitter Bouncer

This is probably the hands down best baby product ever invented. (Not that I'm prone to hyperbole or anything.) But seriously it's amazing. Of course it's got the price tag to match, but don't let that deter you... it is worth its weight in gold! Not that it weighs very much of course... it is super lightweight, and can even be easily moved and adjusted with one hand while holding a sleeping baby in the other. (Not that this is something I recommend doing. Have your man servant, er I mean husband, do it for you.)

Why is this product so great? First of all, it bounces when baby moves. So when you place sleeping baby in it when it is in the "sleep" position he stays asleep. (There are three tilt levels, sleep, rest and play - the latter being the most upright of course) Why does he stay asleep? Because any movements he makes merely make the seat bounce so his own movements rock him right back to sleep - brilliant! I don't know how I would have survived the first few months without this. Our routine was, breastfed him to sleep on the couch and then gently transfer him into the bouncer so mommy could actually get something done. (If placed in a cot he would immediately wake up. Like he had cot-dar or something - waaaaaaahhhh! I want a warm body next to mine! Pick me up! This cot does not remind me at all of being in the warm womb!) In fact, we were so dependent on this thing STILL at four months that we brought it back to the states with us. It folds up completely flat and fit perfectly in the bottom of our large duffel bag.

 Gage at five days old napping through the unwrapping of his presents from Santa on Christmas day.

Now that Gage has outgrown napping in this thing, I still use it almost every day. (Side note, he physically outgrew the weight limit for the sleep and rest settings very early - I still wish he would nap in it! Right now he is napping on my chest in the Ergo - another baby product must-have which will be in another posting.) But I still use the bouncer every day - he enjoys batting at the toy bar we now have on it, and I bring him into the kitchen when I'm cooking dinner and he will amuse himself in it for 20 minutes or so if I occasionally talk to him while I'm cooking. He'd much prefer to be sitting on the ground, but unfortunately, he can't quite keep himself up a reliable portion of the time - no precious noggins falling smack on the floor please!

Gage always fell asleep after feeding for the first two months. 

Quite simply, invaluable for the early weeks of breastfeeding. You won't need it once they have good head control and can hold themselves up better, but seriously for the first two months when they spend the majority of their waking hours on your boob, you will be very thankful for this supportive, comfortable pillow. And also for your ipad, TV and/or a good book. 

This is a fancy, expensive bucket. But it makes bathing a floppy-headed newborn 1,000x easier! They literally can't topple over - and they also apparently like it because it reminds them of being in the womb.Gage's first few baths were miserable for everyone involved until we figured out that we were making the water too hot! He likes it at 95 degrees (the "recommended" temperature we were using was 100.) Five degrees of wonderful difference - now Gage loves bath time.

I can't underscore enough how important swaddling is in those first few weeks. A properly done swaddle will calm almost any baby, and a tightly swaddled baby stays asleep longer. Newborns have a primitive reflex called the Moro reflex. It's a relic of our tree-swinging ancestors. Basically, if a newborn feels like she is falling (which happens when they are on their backs - which is the only way you should put a baby to sleep - NOT on their tummies or on their side) then she will fail out her arms.... all the better to catch passing branches with! It's kind of cute the first few times they wake themselves up this manner. And then its cuteness declines in rapid reverse proportion to how annoying it actually is. (There are no branches kid! We don't live in trees - go back to sleep!) So swaddling is a must, for that reason, and also because it reminds them of being tightly packed in the womb. Dr. Karp writes extensively on the wonders of the swaddle in The Happiest Baby and it is really worth reading it all. You should also master swaddling a teddy bear before you give birth. And make it really tight! A loose swaddle is a suffocation hazard. (Although the reason these blankets are amazing is that they are so light so if the swaddle were to come undone and the blanket to cover baby's nose, it probably would still be okay? STILL learn to swaddle RIGHT TIGHT!) 

These blankets are so useful in a myriad other ways. As stroller sun-shade, picnic blanket, floor blanket, stroller blanket, regular blanket (although never put loose blankets in a crib with an infant - more on that later), burp cloth, and nursing cover! I always have one of these in my diaper bag.

And in the department of baby-soothing... you should also keep a hairdryer handy... it makes the screaming stop immediately....

a quiet baby and the hairdryer magic wand

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And six months later.... we're back! Happy Half Birthday to my sweet baby boy

The last post on this blog was the day before I gave birth!

Exactly six months ago, on December 20th early, early in the morning I had my first contractions. By 10:11pm that evening Gage Henry Stevens made a hurried entrance into this world.

I still can't quite believe that he's real... he is the joy and light of my life - so smiley, happy, loveable - so perfect in every way that sometimes it feels like the past 6 months have been a wonderful dream! I am undoubtedly the most lucky woman on earth (nothing like being objective about these things) and not a day goes by that I do not kiss his little checks and say "mommy loves you so so so SO much!" Because I do. Much, much more than I can adequately express in words.

But the point of this blog is not to be a love-fest about my precious boy. Rather it is to keep a record for myself and others of how to parent a newborn, an infant, a baby, and eventually, a toddler. (With a few cute photos along the way.) For the past 6 months I've had the benefit of no job or other children so that I had/have time to research everything baby related - and I also now have more than a dozen friends with babies of similar ages so I have lots of moms to compare notes with.

Things from the past six months that I must cover:

1. Breastfeeding! - ahh breastfeeding. Seems so simple, no? No! It's not. At least not in the beginning. But it is so wonderful and easy once you've got it down.... I have SO much to say on this topic.

2. Baby products, by age group

3. Developmental milestones

4. Weaning (aka the introduction of solid food)

5. Infant sleep (ahhh pregnant people out there... enjoy those uninterrupted nights you lucky, lucky thing you, you don't know how lucky you are...)

6. Birth

There's so much I've learned - and so much that I've already forgotten! (Think pregnancy brain is bad... wait for baby brain - it's worse because you don't have crazy hormones to blame for your seeming absent-mindedness. Your partner will swear you are actually blonde.)

And since my good friend from childhood just broke the news to me that she is pregnant and due in October (yaaayy!! 'cuse me while I do a happy jig around the living room)... I want to start off with the fun stuff, which is of course, buying baby stuff!! This will require some thought however, so I will end it here for tonight and leave you with a very happy half birthday photo of my bugaboo, my bubba, my chunky monkey, my sweet baby Gage.